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State Election Commission to certify new voting system

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the first time in eight years, the <co >State Election Commission is expected to certify a new voting system for use in state elections when it meets Friday afternoon.

Commissioners will be asked to certify the EVS 5.0.0.0 system manufactured by Elections Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., for use in elections statewide.

Jake Glance, spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, said a key advance in the new system is that it incorporates a high-speed digital scan central ballot counter, which can record and tabulate ballots faster than optical-scan ballot counters currently in use.

"It will make the counting process faster," he said Thursday. "It's all about speed and accuracy."

Under state election law and the federal Help America Vote Act, voting systems must be tested to verify security and accuracy at both the federal and state level.

The United States Election Assistance Commission gave federal certification to the EVS 5.0.0.0 on May 16.

On Aug. 23, independent consultants Steve Hyre and Tony Schilesser evaluated the system components and software during a presentation and inspection in the Secretary of State's offices, and submitted a report dated Sept. 5 to the State Election Commission.

Their report concludes that the system conforms with state requirements for electronic voting systems.

In addition to the central ballot scanner, key components of the system include digital ballot tabulators for use at voting precincts, and AutoMARK voter-assist terminals.

Under HAVA, each polling place in the U.S. must have at least one electronic voting machine that allows vision-impaired voters to cast ballots without assistance.

The AutoMARK terminal displays the ballot on a large video screen, and also provides the option of listening to an audio text of the ballot with headphones.

Once the State Election Commission certifies the voting system, counties will have the option to purchase EVS 5.0.0.0 systems if they chose, Glance said.

At least two county clerks -- Vera McCormick in Kanawha County and Susan Thomas in Harrison County -- have expressed interest in updating voting systems in their counties, Glance said. Both indicated they would be watching a live webcast of the 2 p.m. meeting, he said.

The last time the State Election Commission certified an electronic voting system was in 2005, under then-Secretary of State Betty Ireland. That also was an ES&S system.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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